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Desert Rain Frog

Desert Rain Frog

It’s a type of a rain frog but is found in the desert! Also known as South Africa or cape rain frog, the tiny desert rain frog spends most of its time under the sand and only emerges at night to feed.

The Desert rain frog sports a short nose and short legs that prevent it from hopping. Photo: Arie van der Meijden.

Its name, desert rain frog, itself is an oxymoron (two words opposite in meaning appearing next to each other in a sentence). Ironically, it barely rains in the place where this unique frog is found. It is called so because it belongs to the Brevicipitidae, a family of rain frogs.  It is found exclusively in arid coastal desert regions of South Africa and Namibia. Sand dunes and desert vegetation characterise this region and it gets almost all its moisture from fogs that blow in from the sea.

Really tiny, but plump and puffed up, Breviceps macrops sports a short nose and stumpy, short legs that prevent it from hopping. Its skin, like many other amphibians, is covered in wart-like bumps and has distinct patterns and patchy yellow-brown colouration. This helps it blend in with the surroundings. A small part of its belly skin has a transparent patch making its internal organs visible!

This nocturnal desert creature spends most of its day in a burrow where it is cool and moist and which it digs using specially designed feet that look like paddles. Unlike other frogs in its genus, the desert rain frog has webbed feet, which possibly help it get a good footing in loose sand. It feeds on insects and their larvae and lays its eggs underground covering them in a thick, jelly-like substance. When the tadpoles emerge, the jelly softens into a fluid in which they live until they grow into frogs. So that’s how they manage to survive even in an arid environment.

Interestingly, its most striking feature isn’t one of its physical traits at all. It makes a peculiar sound particularly when it is threatened! It makes an adorable, squeaky, shrill sound – one that has even been termed a fearsome ‘war cry’. You have to hear it to believe it.

First appeared in: Sanctuary Asia, Vol. XXXV No. 9, September 2015.


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